Relationships are inevitably a part of every college student’s life. The typical relationship on Belmont’s campus would go a little something like study dates in the library, a blanket on the lawn and maybe a hand-holding stroll down to Sweet CeCe’s.
Most of these couples put little to no thought engaging in these actions.
But sophomores Brittany Yeager and Reggie Jackson’s relationship is not as well received. They feel hateful looks, hear harsh words and see disapproving actions when seen in public.
“If we’re walking across campus or something, I can feel a look from people that’s not normal. Sometimes they’re just staring, but sometimes it’s a bad look depending on who is looking,” said Jackson.
Jackson– one of the 281 African-American students on campus, according to the Belmont University official enrollment report fall 2015– has been dating Yeager– a white Cincinnati-native– for seven months.
Jackson and Yeager are not the only interracial couple on Belmont’s campus. Manny Corlew, who is African-American, has been dating Caroline Glover, a white sophomore, for eight months. They have not let their races hinder their relationship.
“When you look at interracial relationships, black and white unions are the smallest of interracial unions. Interracial relationships tend to be with two minority groups,” said Erin Pryor, sociology professor whose emphasis is on black and white interracial couples.
Specifically, only 7.9 percent of all interracial combinations are white and black partnerships, according to the U.S. census data.
Yeager and Jackson met on freshman move-in day. Their relationship officially manifested in August of 2015 when they began to date exclusively.
“He’s a funny guy; he’s made me feel so special. We rarely fight; we’re very understanding with each other and we have a lot of fun together,” said Yeager.
Jackson met Yeager’s parents before he officially asked her to be his girlfriend.
While Jackson was worried to meet Yeager’s parents because of his skin color, he was pleasantly surprised by the support and acceptance from her immediate family.
“My parents didn’t have a problem with it. My grandparents didn’t have a problem with it either, but they preferred that I be with someone who is white, but they ultimately just wanted me to be happy. When he came to stay with me, my family loved him instantly,” said Yeager.
Yeager met Jackson’s parents after a few months into their relationship.
“Black families have to be more accepting of white partners and the interracial union more than white families. As a subordinate group, black people as minorities are required to be more accepting with dominant ideologies of structures in society because they don’t want to be seemingly against the dominant group,” said Pryor.
Jackson struggled as a black man interested in white women.
“They have told me in the past that ‘you love who you love, but if I had to choose for you, you know who we’d choose,’” said Jackson.
And Jackson always assumed that to be a black woman. To his surprise, however, his family welcomed Yeager with open arms.
In a similar situation, Corlew and Glover’s relationship started when Glover hired Corlew at Vector Marketing Corporation. They began working together and soon publicized their love. Both families were extremely accepting of their relationship.
“My family has always been pretty progressive,” said Glover. “There was never any disapproval.They were happy for me, and his was too.”
While both couples sustained positive relationships with their family and friends, some people from the Belmont community have not been as tolerant of interracial relationships.
“He was sitting in the lobby one day, and I got off the elevator. There were three black girls standing in the hallway. I said ‘hey babe’ to him and went up and talked to him. The girls stopped their conversation, turned and gave us a really dirty look,” said Yeager.
Jackson said he notices disapproval from the older generation specifically. However, even in dorm rooms, other students notice their relationship- more particularly, they notice the colors of their skin.
“When I tell people about my girlfriend, they see a picture and the first thing they notice is that she’s a white girl. Not ‘oh, she’s pretty’ but ‘oh, you’re dating a white girl,’” said Jackson.
Corlew and Glover have had the same experience.
“We go running together sometimes and I always tell her that she can’t run too far in front of me or too far behind me,” said Corlew. “If I let her go ahead of me, someone will assume I’m chasing her and stop me. If she’s running behind me, people will assume I stole something from her and she’s trying to get it.”
Corlew said a black man is sometimes stereotyped as being angry, aggressive and abusive.
“I can’t ‘play wrestle’ with her like some couples do because people will think something is actually going on with a black man rustling around with a white woman,” said Corlew. “I’m not a bad person, and I’m definitely not a violent one.”
Other terms and stereotypes such as “jungle fever,” “snow bunny” and the saying “once you go black you never go back” are commonly used to describe interracial relationships- specifically with African-American and white unions.
Both couples hope to negate the stereotypes.
“A lot of these terms have tones and underlying messages that root back to slavery when being black was constructed as being sexually promiscuous, primal or seductive,” said Pryor.
Although 87 percent of Americans approve of white and African-American relationships according to a poll on Gallup, Pryor believes attitudes do not always manifest into action.
“Surveys do a good job of getting answers of attitudes, but people know how to answer questions appropriately. People may believe in their own head that they don’t have a problem with it, but it’s easy to say people don’t mind until it directly affects your life. Then that attitude may be different,” said Pryor.
Even through the struggles and stereotypes, Yeager and Jackson agree all the hardships are worth their relationship.
“When I look at him, I see him, not the fact that he’s black. His race has nothing to do with my feelings for him,” said Yeager.
Glover believes it is unimportant to consider someone’s race before dating.
“If you’re dating or wanting to date someone, then it should be purely out of how you feel for them and how you see your life with them. It shouldn’t have anything to do with race,” said Glover.
“When I’m with Brittany, I’m the happiest. So why would I trade that for the satisfaction of other people who don’t want to see us together?” said Jackson.
This article was written by Taylor Andrews.